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Walmart pilots concierge-style online shopping in New York City

New Jetblack service ushers in “conversational commerce”

Walmart technology incubator Store No 8 has unveiled Jetblack, a new retail service that takes a concierge-style approach to online shopping.

Walmart said Jetblack launched on a limited basis in New York City on Thursday in Manhattan and part of Brooklyn. Through the members-only service, customers can text almost any shopping request and Jetblack will find the right products and deliver them the same day or the next day for no extra charge.

According to Walmart, Jetblack looks to pioneer “conversational commerce,” or the ability to shop via text messaging, online chat or voice. The service, acting as a virtual personal assistant, leverages artificial intelligence practices and expertise from professional buyers to provide curated shopping recommendations sent via text.

Targeting time-pressed urban parents, Jetblack can deliver “everything from birthday gifts to household essentials,” spanning the home, health, parenting, fashion and wellness categories, the company said.

Daily essentials ordered through Jetblack may be sourced from Walmart and its unit, while other items and specialty products are procured from local brands and shops, Walmart reported. The company cited such examples as a specific beauty cream sourced from a member’s favorite local boutique, curating custom Easter baskets and delivering them while the children are asleep, and delivering beach items to a family on vacation.

Consumers can join a waiting list to enroll in the service at The website said that there’s no minimum dollar amount and that delivery, by courier, is free and arrives the same day or the next day. Items come in lightweight, recyclable bags. Along with on-demand access to category experts, members get free gift-wrapping and handwritten gift cards, competitive pricing on all items, and pickup service for returns.

A closed beta test of Jetblack was conducted in Manhattan early this year. According to Walmart, members have described shopping via the service “as easy as texting a close friend who knows your preferences.”

“Our e-commerce strategy has been focused on three elements: nailing the fundamentals, leveraging our unique strengths to play offense and innovating for the future. Through Store No 8 and Jetblack, we’re able to build and test technology that can lay the foundation for capabilities we believe will have a profound impact on how customers may shop five years from now,” Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, said in a statement. “Powered by conversational commerce, the future of retail will bring convenience and high-touch personalization to the forefront for consumers everywhere.”

Store No 8 was formed in early 2017, just months after Walmart closed its acquisition of and named Lore, the e-tailer’s founder and CEO, to head the retail giant’s e-commerce efforts.

The first business to launch from Store No 8, New York-based Jetblack — described as “creating the next step in premium retail” — is led by co-founder and CEO Jenny Fleiss, who helped start online fashion rental service Rent the Runway.

“Consumers are looking for more efficient ways to shop for themselves and their families without having to compromise on product quality. With Jetblack, we have created an entirely new concept that enables consumers to get exactly what they need through the convenience of text messaging and the freedom of a nearly unlimited product catalog,” Fleiss said. “We are confident this service will make shopping frictionless, more personalized and delightful.”

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